Five tips to lower your risk of catching Covid-19 on your local getaway

Travel hacks to help you 'stay safe' when you go away

01 September 2020 - 09:54 By Elizabeth Sleith
Face mask rules still apply on holiday.
Face mask rules still apply on holiday.
Image: 123RF/Mirko Vitali


One of the reasons the virus is so insidious is that it’s possible to have it and not know you have it. The goal is therefore not only to protect yourself and your loved ones from getting it, but also to prevent yourself from inadvertently passing it on.

The World Health Organisation’s advice for your day-to-day interactions applies to travel scenarios too: act as if you do have it, and take all the familiar precautions: wear a mask, wash/sanitise your hands regularly and practise social distancing.


On arrival at your accommodation, trust your Spidey senses. A conscientious establishment will have made efforts to create a safe first impression. They will check your temperature at the door, staff will be wearing masks, and require you to do so too. There should be a clear effort to maintain social distancing.

Should someone carry your bags to your room? No thank you. Should they keep their masks on but allow you to drop yours? Definitely not

Here is a place where some higher-end establishments might flounder as many of their special touches may have to fall away. Should someone carry your bags to your room? No thank you. Should they keep their masks on but allow you to drop yours? Definitely not. Don’t put them in the awkward position of having to ask you to behave.

The provision of opportunities to sanitise, not only at the entrance but also in the restaurant, and at access points to public bathrooms and so on is also a good signifier of their dedication to maintaining hygiene behind the scenes too.


Remember how we laughed last year when model-legend Naomi Campbell revealed how she fastidiously cleans her own seat on a plane?

Best-case scenario, your room has been thoroughly sanitised before your arrival, by someone who kept their mask on throughout — because even a cough on a surface carries potential risk. For extra peace of mind, you could give your own room a wipe down when you get in, with an extra swipe for frequently touched objects like door handles and bedside tables.

As Campbell said in her demonstration video: “I do not care what people say of me, it's my health and it makes me feel better.” Be like Campbell.

As for the room itself, often-touched but unnecessary items should have been removed. Throw pillows, for example, might be luxurious but they’re not likely to have been washed after every change of guest. If they haven’t already been removed, ask for them to be.

It’s also OK to say no thanks to daily room-cleanings and turndowns for the duration of your stay. When you need them, have clean towels left at the door, or do your own wipedown every time you return.


If you see anything you don’t like, point it out (nicely). Remember this is new terrain for everyone, and literally everybody feels awkward about this “new normal” business. Particularly in hospitality, people are used to big says and warm welcomes, and there is definitely an implicit frigidity to social distancing with which many will naturally struggle.

With all the care in the world, the odd well-meaning transgression can happen, someone may stand too close or have their mask under the chin. If it’s a fellow guest, maybe just back away quietly. If it’s a staffer, it’s OK to point it out with sensitivity.

If, however, the crimes against Covid are repetitive or severe, don’t be scared to back out of your booking. There are many accommodation providers vying for your attention right now and you shouldn’t struggle to find another one.


If you do start to develop Covid-19 symptoms during your stay, please don’t stay quiet and hope for the best. Alert the hotel immediately. Again, proper institutions will have a plan in place for what to do.

Onomo Hotel Durban. The group has specially trained staff to step in if a guest starts to feel unwell.
Onomo Hotel Durban. The group has specially trained staff to step in if a guest starts to feel unwell.
Image: Onomo Hotel

Souleymane Khol, COO at Onomo Hotels, which has several properties across Africa, including in Joburg, Cape Town and Durban, says it has appointed “Covid marshals” — Onomo team members who have been trained to manage Covid-19 cases. Guests who experience any symptoms are asked to contact the front office.

“The marshal asks the guest a few questions about their symptoms to confirm or note the probability of Covid 19 contamination,” says Khol. If concern is warranted, the guest will be isolated either in their room or in a specific isolation room that has been prepared in all Onomo hotels. “The hotel will contact the sanitary authorities, who will come to take charge of the guest and the room will be immediately quarantined, then deeply disinfected,” he adds.